Local Governments have been struggling for some time to attract and retain the best talent. Even before COVID-19, the public sector was facing a staffing squeeze, leaving councils with workforce shortages. The public sector had lost over a million jobs since 2009, and pre-pandemic, the sector accounted for only 17% of the country’s total workforce – the lowest it had been since 1999.

However, the most recent report from the Office for National Statistics suggests that there are some reasons for optimism. The ongoing response to the corona virus pandemic has actually driven small shoots of growth for the public sector. Hiring challenges remain – limited resources for recruitment and frozen wages compared to the private sector – but there are ways for local government organisations to overcome these with the right strategy, activity, and approach.

Getting Public Sector Recruitment Right

With the inherent challenges of finding the right candidates, local governments can rarely afford to get the hiring process wrong. Public services, goals, and performance can suffer from the wrong hire. Finding the right employee, on the other hand, can strengthen the public sector. Finding someone passionate about the mission and activity of local government can make a huge difference to communities.

Recruitment bottlenecks and poor decisions can happen in any organisation. The goal of this piece is to provide information on how public sector organisations can ensure that their hiring practices and processes run smoothly. So, how can employers in local government attract the best talent and recruit effectively even with limited budgets?

Build a Strong Employer Brand

As is the case in the private sector, councils and government agencies must work to ensure that they have got their employer branding just right. Being able to attract and hire the perfect candidate hinges on your ability to show that your organisation is an attractive place to work.

Make sure that you are consciously portraying your company culture and values, along with the benefits of working for your organisation. Its also crucial that you showcase your support for career development opportunities. All of these things make up your employer value proposition – a critical part of your recruitment marketing strategy.

Communicating a strong brand to applicants demonstrates contemporary thinking and clearly outlines why people should want to work for your organisation.

Define your Purpose

This is where local authorities, councils, and other public sector agencies have a clear advantage over the private sector organisations they are competing against for talent. Surveys of younger workers – Millennials and ‘Gen-Z’ – show that these applicants are driven by a sense of purpose. These are employees who want to feel as though they are making a difference in their communities.

This is a boon for public sector entities who can highlight the clear ways in which recruits can make a meaningful difference to the lives of those around them through public service and by working with the government. For many younger employees this sense of mission and purpose can be even more important than salary, making this a crucial aspect to highlight during hiring process.

Allow Employees to Work Remotely

Being flexible is one of the key ways to successfully recruit in a candidate-led market. In the aftermath of the pandemic, many workers in both the public and private sector have jumped at the opportunity to improve their work-life balance, and thus appreciate the flexibility to either work remotely fulltime or engage in a hybrid arrangement, working part of the week at home and the rest in the office.

This is not something that the public sector has always been able to offer and requires more than just the will to allow your employees to work from home. It means that local governments must look to invest in cloud-based software and other technology that can facilitate such working arrangements without posing any operational risk to the organisation. Investing in software that can streamline processes and provide employees with the potential for remote working opportunities is essential to compete against the private sector in the current market.

Invest in an Applicant Tracking System

One of the most important things that any business – especially those in the public sector – can to do improve their hiring process is to invest in software solutions such as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

The public sector can frequently suffer from being thought of as being slow and archaic, with manual practices and processes relying on paper, spreadsheets, and inefficient software.

While these ideas are almost certainly untrue in many cases, the lack of dedicated software solutions to aid in recruitment can hamper any hiring activity. With an ATS, public sector organisations can automate many aspects of recruitment, streamlining the process. You can instantly add job openings to your careers site, and immediately share these positions across integrated job boards at the same time.

For organisations with limited budgets, the amount of time it can take to hire someone can be extremely costly. With an ATS, not only can you remove much of the overheads associated with recruitment, but you can also track metrics such as cost-per-hire, allowing you to budget more effectively for new recruits.

Request a demo for more information about how Hireserve can streamline your recruitment, automate your processes, and optimise your hiring strategy.

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.